A Tentative Legislative Timeline for the Current CAP Reform

The Commission published its Legal Proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2013 on 12 October 2011. This is the first time that decisions on CAP reform have involved the European Parliament as well as the European Council under the ordinary legislative procedure. As such there is considerable uncertainty as to how long the process of negotiation and reaching agreement will take. See Figure 1 for a tentative timeline.

Both institutions are preparing themselves for the first reading within the formal ordinary legislative procedure. The Parliament has appointed rapporteurs to steer the four key legislative proposals through the European Parliament and the ordinary legislative procedure. Those MEPs selected are Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos, Socialists and Democrats (for direct payments and EAFRD), Michel Dantin, EPP (for the Single CMO Regulation), and Giovanni La Via, EPP (for financing, management and monitoring) . On the Council front, Member States were given the opportunity to voice their initial reactions to the legal proposals at the Agriculture Council meeting on 20-21 October. Before the formal first reading in the Parliament in spring 2012, Ministers will meet twice more to discuss Pillar 1 (14-15 November) and rural development (15-16 December) in more detail.

The formal ordinary legislative procedure is likely to begin in spring 2012. The length of time that this process will take is a matter of speculation as this is new territory for the CAP. Although the process often takes between 2 and 3 years, statistics from other areas of policy show that it can take as little as 2 months to reach a final agreement . Given the fact that the new CAP legislation needs to be in place by 1 January 2014 for financial support to continue to be made available to farmers, foresters and rural communities, stakeholders are hoping that the Council and Parliament will cooperate and seek agreement as soon as possible in 2012. Failure to come to an agreement at this stage would delay subsequent processes and potentially put into question the feasibility of making the new CAP operational by 1 January 2014. Nonetheless the timetable is ambitious, given that Members of the European Parliament are keen to play a full role in the discussions, as Albert Dess has made clear, stating that ‘the European Parliament would make full use of its co-decision prerogatives’. The Agriculture Committee Chair, Paulo de Castro, also noted, however, the need for a ‘cooperative approach’ which was echoed by other MEPs, such as Mr Capoulas Santos who stressed there should be ‘flexibility’ between the Council and the Parliament.

Assuming that the Council and Parliament are able to reach an agreement in summer 2012, other factors external to the legislative CAP process could hinder final agreement. In particular, it is unlikely that any final agreement will be ratified before agreement is reached on the multi-annual financial framework for 2014-2020. Any delay in final agreement on the EU’s budget (expected to be agreed December 2013) will be likely to lead to a delay in the legislative CAP reform process as the budget plays a decisive role on the design of the CAP beyond 2013.

On adoption of the new CAP legislative framework in a set of regulations, tentatively projected to be spring 2013, the Commission will need to finalise and publish the relevant delegated acts and implementing regulations. It also has three months from this date to publish the Common Strategic Framework, to which the implementation of the rural development regulation will need to adhere, along with other elements of the budget.

Even this somewhat optimistic timeline does not leave Member States with much time to finalise the development of their Partnership Contracts and Rural Development Programmes (RDPs) for 2014-2020 (including the necessary ex-ante evaluation) and get them approved by the Commission in time for January 2014, particularly as the Commission is permitted to take up to six months to approve Rural Development Programmes. Any delays in submission of RDPs to the Commission, therefore, have a knock on impact on the date of their approval, leading to delays with programme implementation on the ground, as has happened often in the past.

Of course, it is not just the RDPs that will take time to develop in the early part of 2013. In addition, the significant changes in Pillar 1 that are proposed mean that Member States will need time to work out the practicalities for implementing the new requirements, which for most countries will not be an insignificant amount of effort. Many countries will be changing the basis of their single farm payment away from the historic record model, as they will be required to do. This is a considerable administrative challenge, with a sensitive political dimension in relation to the redistribution of payments.

Even with a fair wind, it is clear that there are some considerable challenges in terms of the timescales for negotiating and agreeing the CAP proposals at the EU level and subsequently making sure they are ready to be implemented in Member States by 1 January 2014. Good collaboration and communication will be needed between all those involved and the willingness to look for solutions that do not simply result in a weakening of the proposals and agreement based on the lowest common denominator.


02 Nov 2011